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N.J. attorney general sues DOJ over records related to Wire Act

The New Jersey attorney general has sued the U.S. Justice Department for failing to turn over documents related to the department’s reinterpretation of the federal Wire Act.

Attorney General Gurbir Grewal filed the complaint Tuesday in U.S. District Court in New Jersey, saying the DOJ’s reinterpretation of a seven-year-old opinion related to sports gambling could hurt New Jersey’s online sports betting business. New Jersey generates about $352.7 million in annual revenue through online gaming, resulting in annual tax collections of about $60 million.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction directing the Justice Department to adhere to the Freedom of Information Act request and produce “all records reflecting memoranda, communications, consultations or meetings relating to the Wire Act.”

The 1961 Wire Act originally was intended to block sports betting across state lines through telephone and wire communications as a means of deterring organized crime.

In 2011, the Justice Department of President Barack Obama’s administration interpreted the law to ban sports betting but enable interstate poker play and lottery sales. The new interpretation, issued in January by President Donald Trump’s administration, bans all forms of interstate betting, including sports wagering, and also includes other gambling-related interstate communications.

The lawsuit cites several press accounts reporting that the department was influenced in its reinterpretation of the law by the lobbying efforts of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman Sheldon Adelson, who opposes online gambling.

“It’s especially important that we figure out whether this federal crackdown is the result of a lobbying campaign by a single individual seeking to protect his personal business interests,” Grewal said in a release issued by his office Tuesday.

Las Vegas Sands has acknowledged helping to finance the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, which believes internet gambling targets the vulnerable and is not secure. However, gaming regulators have used technology to prevent play by minors and to determine the location of a player as well as to enforce laws against money laundering.

The coalition lists 67 supporters on its website, including Reno’s Bonanza Casino and Monarch Casino & Resorts, but not Las Vegas Sands.

Neither Adelson nor Las Vegas Sands were named in the lawsuit, and Sands spokesman Ron Reese had no comment Tuesday on the filing.

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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